SCOPSCO Pollen Group
The international team of SCOPSCO (Scientific Collaboration on Past Speciation
Conditions in lake Ohrid) has studied the Balkan lake Ohrid to reconstruct past
climatic trends. The research was led by Bernd Wagner of the University of Cologne.
Lake Ohrid is located at the border between Albania and Republic of North
Macedonia and it is considered one of the oldest lakes in Europe. For this reason, in
2013, thanks to a funding of the ICDP (International Continental scientific Drilling
Program), the bottom of the lake was drilled and a sediment core with an impressive
length of 600 m was made available to an international team of researchers. The
geological coring, carried out in a central position at a water depth of 243 m,
represented a technological challenge that required the use of equipment coming
from the United States. Sediment layers can be interpreted as pages of a history
book that scientists can read. The sediment of Lake Ohrid, slowly accumulated over
time, layer by layer, records the history of vegetation and climate of more than one
million years, thus preserving the evidence of glacial and interglacial cycles in the
Among the data provided, a significant role was played by the study of fossil pollen
preserved in the sediment of this lake, which was studied by a group of Italian,Dutch,
French, Greek and German palynologists led by Laura Sadori of the Sapienza
University (SCOPSCO pollen group). The team, first to gather such a large number of
experts working in synergy on a single archive, described the changes in vegetation
that occurred in response to alternating climatic periods. Warm and wet interglacials
have allowed the development of forests while cold and arid glacials have mostly
been characterized by extensive steppes and grasslands. During the coldest and
driest periods, the lake, thanks to its extraordinary environmental conditions, was an
area of refuge for many plant and animal species, and today is an important
biodiversity hotspot and, since 1979, also a UNESCO site. Thanks to the pollen,
which is very peculiar, it was also possible to learn more about the extinction of
some characteristic Quaternary plants that are no longer present in the Balkan
Sapienza pollen group - Published articles on Lake Ohrid
Bertini A., Sadori L., Combourieu-Nebout N., Donders T.H., Kouli K., Koutsodendris A., Joannin S., Masi A., Mercuri A.M.,
Panagiotopoulos K., Peyron O., Sinopoli G., Torri P., Zanchetta G., Francke A., Wagner B., 2016. All together now: An international
palynological team documents vegetation and climate changes during the last 500 kyr at lake Ohrid (SE Europe). Alpine and
Mediterranean Quaternary 29: 201-210.
Sadori L., Koutsodendris A., Panagiotopoulos K., Masi A., Bertini A., Combourieu-Nebout N., Francke A., Kouli K., Joannin S.,
Mercuri A.M., Peyron O., Torri P., Wagner B., Zanchetta G., Sinopoli G., Donders T.H., 2016. Pollen-based paleoenvironmental and
paleoclimatic change at Lake Ohrid (SE Europe) during the past 500 ka. Biogeosciences 13: 1423–1437.
Sinopoli G., Masi A., Regattieri E., Wagner B., Francke A., Peyron O., Sadori L., 2018. Palynology of the Last Interglacial Complex at
Lake Ohrid: palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic inferences. Quaternary Science Reviews 180: 177-192.
Sinopoli G., Peyron O., Masi A., Holtvoeth J., Francke A., Wagner B., Sadori L., 2019. Pollen-based temperature and precipitation
changes in the Ohrid Basin (western Balkans) between 160 and 70 ka. Climate of the Past 15: 53-71.
Zanchetta G., Regattieri E., Giaccio B., Wagner B., Sulpizio R., Francke A., Vogel H., Sadori L., Masi A., Sinopoli G., Lacey J. H., Leng
M. J., Leicher N., 2016. Aligning and synchronization of MIS5 proxy records from Lake Ohrid (FYROM) with independently dated
Mediterranean archives: implications for DEEP core chronology. Biogeosciences 13: 2757-2768.
Zanchettta G., Baneschi I., Francke A., Boschi C., Regattieri E., Wagner B., Lacey J.H., Leng M.J., Vogel H., Sadori L., 2018. Evidence
for carbon cycling in a large freshwater lake in the Balkans over the last 0.5 million years using the isotopic composition of bulk
organic matter. Quaternary Science Reviews 202: 154-165.